The Norwegian Group isn’t complacent, or taking anything for granted, after progress with USDOT towards granting Open Skies access to the U.S. for Norwegian Air International, Ireland.
The decision by the USDOT has not been popular with the lobbying groups which have fought against recognising NAI as anything more than “a flag of convenience,” and Norwegian is tackling this resistance by disputing claims on poor labor terms and negative impact to U.S. airlines and the U.S. market.
Norwegian argues that it has already “enabled 2.2 million passengers access to more affordable travel between the U.S. and Europe,” creating “hundreds of new jobs in the air” and 17,000 jobs on the ground in travel and tourism-related industries.
It also highlights that Norwegian employs “more U.S.-based crew than any other foreign airline, all of whom are employed under U.S. law.”
Norwegian also pointed out the value of its order for U.S.-built Boeing aircraft: $18.5 billion. And that even its E.U.-built Airbus aircraft benefit the U.S. economy because it has selected Pratt & Whitney engines. The airline says these orders “create and support up to 100,000 jobs.”
Norwegian says its existing operations already generate “tens of millions of dollars of economic activity in these regions through travel and tourism.”
More Jobs, More Travellers
The expansion of U.S. services made possible by approval of NAI’s foreign carrier permit, Norwegian Group says, would create thousands of new jobs, and benefit both U.S. and European economies, as well as benefiting significant economic benefits in the U.S. and Europe, and also allow more individuals to fly across the Atlantic on cheaper fares.
No Good Reason to Say No
Besides pointing out that it has disputed the case against its expansion for over two years, Norwegian points out that the USDOT could find no good reason not accept their application at this point.
“These allegations also ignore the DOT’s initial order from last week that states: NAI ‘appears to meet the DOT’s normal standards for award of a permit and that there appears to be no legal basis to deny NAI’s application’,” the airline writes.
No Asian-Based Crew
Norwegian also disputed claims that it will benefit fro cheaper labor rates from foreign basis, saying that NAI will not operate with crew based in Asia and will operate flights with crew based in the U.S. and the EU.
Its employees are compensated in line with the regulations of their respective countries, says Norwegian.
Not a “Flag of Convenience”
Norwegian repeated that NAI will not operate as a “flag of convenience” as opponents accuse, but as a full fledged airline already headquartered in Dublin, with 80 employees and 37 aircraft registered in Ireland which already flies to and from Ireland. The airline plans to use its USDOT approval to operate flights between Cork and Boston initially, with new flights between New York and Cork in 2017 and service from other Irish airports in future.
No Safety Concerns
Norwegian also touts its clean safety record since it launched operations in 1993, in compliance with European safety standards set forth by EASA, with crew trained by those standards and a corresponding in-house training program.
The group also points out that the Irish Aviation Authority, which oversees NAI operations is “one of the highest ranked civil aviation authorities in the world.”
Norwegian disputes any claims the tit benefits from government subsidies, saying that it is a 100% privately owned company, listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange, and has “never received any government subsidies.”
Efforts to Block Approval are Non-Competitive
Norwegian says its motivation for transatlantic services from the beginning has been to address a market gap. “The launch of low-cost long-haul services in 2013 was because Norwegian believed that greater competition on international flights was long overdue,” the company writes.
“Norwegian now offers 33 transatlantic routes, often in direct competition with other major airlines. Despite this, opponents to Norwegian’s expansion in the U.S. have absurdly tried to argue that this poses a threat to competition. This is clearly untrue; the only threat Norwegian poses is to the near-monopoly that has for many decades existed in transatlantic travel, and protected by joint ventures and alliances. A final approval for NAI will simply underline exactly what the EU-US Open Skies agreement was designed for – to create more competition among airlines, leading to greater choice and lower fares for passengers.”
The airline cites a White House Fact Sheet which references the benefits to the U.S. Travel and Tourism sectors and the U.S. Economy of attracting more foreign travel to the U.S.